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    Breathing Exercises May Help Asthma

    Study: Inhaler Use Fell in Asthma Patients Using Breathing Techniques
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    June 7, 2006 -- Practicing breathing techniques may cut the use of rescue inhalers in patients with asthmaasthma.

    That finding comes from a study published online in the journal Thorax. The researchers included Cassandra Slader, BPharm, of Australia’s University of Sydney.

    The study included 57 people aged 15-80 years with mild to moderate asthma. Before and after the study, they rated their quality of life, took tests of lung function and airway responsiveness, and noted how often they used preventive and rescue inhalers.

    Preventive inhalers are used as a maintenance treatment. They contain inhaled corticosteroids. Rescue inhalers are used in an asthma attack. They contain drugs called beta agonists, such as Proventil or Albuterol inhalers.

    Roll the Video

    Slader’s team split the patients into two groups.

    The researchers gave patients in one group a video teaching a breathing technique featuring shallow nasal breaths.

    Patients in the other group got a video that taught posture, relaxation, upper-body exercises (such as arm raises and shoulder rolls), and breath control through the nose or mouth.

    Patients were told to do their exercises twice daily for 30 weeks. They were instructed to use their video in at least one daily session.

    Patients were also asked to try their breathing exercises for three to five minutes before using rescue inhalers. If that didn’t work, they were free to use rescue inhalers.

    Throughout the study, patients used electronic devices to record their symptom intensity, inhaler use, exercise sessions, and other factors. Their medicine changes were noted at scheduled checkups.

    After the study’s 16th week, the researchers attempted to lower patients’ inhaled corticosteroid dose in two steps.

    Drop in Use of Rescue Inhalers

    Patients’ quality of life, lung function, and airway responsiveness didn’t change during the study.

    But they had a “dramatic reduction” of 86% in use of rescue inhalers and a 50% drop in use of inhaled corticosteroids, the researchers write.

    Both groups showed similar improvements. The researchers reached two conclusions:

    • The process of practicing breathing techniques may be more important than the type of breathing technique used.
    • Trying breathing techniques before using rescue inhalers might help curb use of rescue inhalers.

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